Santa and the Easter Bunny

My six year-old grandson came over for a visit on Saturday. He invited the neighbor boy who lives next door to play at our house for the afternoon. After an hour of outdoor activities and adventures, they came inside to “build stuff” and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Here’s an excerpt from the best part:

Grandson (GS): I can’t wait for Christmas!

Neighbor Boy (NB): For sure… Christmas is awesome!

GS: What do you want Santa to bring you?

NB: There is no Santa.

GS: (shocked and a bit confused) Well, if there is no Santa where do all the presents come from?

NB: They come from your mom and dad and your grandma and grandpa.

My interest in their conversation escalated from casual overhearing to full on eavesdropping. I was paying attention – curious as to how my grandson would receive this earth-shattering news. A renewed confidence swept over his face and he continued the conversation with a somewhat indignant tone:

GS: That is so totally not true ‘cause I’ve seen the real Santa that comes from the North Pole. I saw him at the mall. I even talked to him.

NB: That was just a man in a costume. There is no North Pole and Santa Claus is not real.

At this point, my grandson decided to let things slide and there was a lull in the conversation. Then the neighbor boy piped up:

NB: Same thing with the Easter Bunny… not real. Who ever heard of a bunny that drops off candy to little kids? Ridiculous!

By this time my poor grandson was reeling. His core belief systems were under attack. I could see his little mind spinning and churning as important parts of his world were crumbling right before his eyes. No Santa? No Easter Bunny?

Suddenly, he jumped up and ran into my office. He asked when his mom would return and I said, “Pretty soon.”

“Good” he answered (with a very serious look on his face), “cause we’re gonna have to have a long talk when she gets here.”

I just smiled and said, “Well, that’s good.”

So there it is. One family lets their children know that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are myths while another keeps the illusion alive for yet a while longer.

Dress up, make-believe, and childhood fantasies are a fun part of growing up (and of parenting). There is certainly nothing wrong with imaginary fun and pretending. But I believe Christian parents must be careful about crossing the line between creative pretense and imaginary fun and encouraging our children to “believe in” things that aren’t real.

Let's make sure our children don't have to wonder if the things we teach them are true or worry that someday they will "find out" that Jesus was just a man in a costume.

Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Santa?

Hazards in the Dark

Four mornings a week I go to our local aquatic center to work out and swim. Because I am an early riser, I usually try to get there by 5:30 AM when they open.

I am a little nervous about driving in the dark anyway - so I am extra careful when I drive the three short miles to the pool. I have driven the road enough times that I am familiar with the possible hazards I could encounter. I always choose the well-lighted route and am extra careful when driving on darker streets that have rough patches and bumps in the road.

As I was heading to the pool this morning I thought about how God often lights our way and steers us through the dark places. And how he sometimes allows rough patches and bumps in our lives to help us learn what he wants us to know or to help us to grow in our faith.

Have you come to a dark place, a rough patch, or a bump in the road in your life? Remember that our light and our hope is in Christ. Trust him today to take you through it.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

Bad Day Blessings

Have you ever had one of those days – a day when nothing seems to go right and you wonder why it’s all happening to you and if God will ever show up? I’ve had days like that and last Saturday was one of them. I spent a good portion of the day feeling sorry for myself and refusing to find anything to be thankful for or about.

The reason for my pity party was that I wanted to be outside working in the yard. The sun was shining and I had spring fever. But I was dealing with arthritic pain in my hips and lower back and it was a particularly bad pain day. Yard work was out of the question.

I decided to go outside anyway – to clean out my car. Wallowing in self-pity, I stepped out of the house into the warm spring air and grumbled my way down the sidewalk to the outbuilding where my car was parked.

As I was complaining my way to the car, I encountered one of the new neighbors living on our property (we recently rented our guesthouse to a young, Christian family who graciously offered to manage and care for our property). She was weeding one of the large flower beds in our yard and if the radiant smile that lit up her face was any indication, she was enjoying it immensely. We chatted for a few minutes before I proceeded to my car cleaning project.

By the time I was finished, our six year-old grandson had arrived to spend the night. Within fifteen minutes, he had rounded up half a dozen kids from the neighborhood who were running around the yard and bursting into our house for snacks and drinks. It reminded me of summer when our yard and pool reverberate with the playful shouts and joyful chatter of children.

Suddenly, while watching the kids play on the lawn and rope swings, I caught myself smiling. I heard God’s still small voice in the laughter of the children and felt his peace in my heart. My pain had not diminished but authentic joy and a sense of deep peace enveloped me as I stopped dwelling on “me” and my arthritic pain.

At that moment, I recognized that I am truly blessed. God has allowed pain and suffering into my life for a reason. There is no wasted pain or accidental suffering in God’s economy. Sometimes God reveals the purpose of pain and suffering. Other times he doesn’t.

Even when I don’t understand the purposes behind my pain and suffering, I am able to understand and fully experience every blessing he sends my way – even in the midst of my bad days. Bad day blessings are the best.

Life after Death

Easter always reminds me of my son. In April of 1987, weeks before his high school graduation, my eighteen year-old son Chris was killed in an auto accident. It was a devastating loss.

After the funeral, I would go to the cemetery and sit beneath a tree near his gravesite and weep, crying out to God for answers and reprieve from the unbearable pain. Day after day, hour after hour for weeks on end, I continued my daily ritual of mourning his death beneath the tree near his grave.

I was a young Christian at the time and I knew that Chris was a believer who was with the Lord, it brought me no peace. I missed him too much. The huge void of emptiness and loss was overwhelming and I was unable to come to terms with his death. So I continued to grieve beneath the tree near his grave.

I needed to engage in life again – to get unstuck. I still had a six year-old daughter who needed me. But again and again I found myself sitting for hours on end beneath the tree near his grave.

One afternoon, I was reflecting on the day Chris gave his heart and life to Jesus when I noticed a little flower. The tiny bloom was just beginning to blossom and would have been easy to miss. I looked around from my spot beneath the tree and noticed for the first time other shrubs and flowers starting to bloom. I saw beautiful colors - pinks, purples, yellows, and whites all around me. Colors were returning and things were coming to life again.

That was the moment my heart began to heal. If the flowers could begin a new season and come back to life again after the death of winter, I could do the same.

My precious son was gone and I missed him but he was alive in heaven thanks to the Easter story of life after death. I began to look forward to being reunited with my son again, to accept the reality of what had happened, and trust in God’s plan for my life.

As I stood up from my place beneath the tree near his grave that day, everything was different. It wouldn’t be easy and it didn’t happen overnight but God used that little flower to get me started – to help me step out into a new beginning.

Easter is a time to celebrate new life. Jesus’ death on the cross leads to the forgiveness of sin and his resurrection from the grave provides the power for new life. God is a God of second chances, clean slates, and do-overs. Is it time for a new beginning in your life? Today is a great day to step out into one. Happy Easter!

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. ~ Matthew 28:5-6a